Phil Jackson began his mini triangle clinic on Thursday, according to one player, by explaining to a very select group of Knicks that in order to run the offense efficiently they needed to understand the basics of, get this, geometry.
Who knew that Michael Jordan was such an expert in “the properties and relations of points, lines, surfaces, solids, and higher dimensional analogs?” All this time I thought he was just that much better than everyone else. You learn something new every day.
Is that how Jerry Krause and Jerry West did it with the Bulls and Lakers respectively when those front office executives usurped Jackson’s authority by running a clinic before practice? Not on your life. The practice court was Jackson’s domain, and rightfully so. As a team president, he’s forgotten what his job description is and isn’t.
“Absurd,” is what one NBA coach called Jackson’s involvement.
“Undermining” is how one general manager described the potential fallout.
So while Phil has aced his geometry exam, he could use a refresher course in team chemistry and defined roles.
Jackson and the Knicks have gone down this road before. The lines of authority were blurred two years ago when Jackson would interrupt Derek Fisher’s practices to convey his triangle wisdom to the group. You want to chalk that up to a rookie executive wanting to help a rookie head coach, go ahead.
No one can deny Jackson’s success as a head coach but when you’re the team president there is a fine line between making a suggestion and trampling all over your head coach. Once is fine. Mini camps are out of bounds.
Jackson did it to Fisher, especially when Fisher tried to get away from the triangle and run things his way. And Jackson is doing it to Jeff Hornacek, who must regret every day that he signed up to work for Phil as opposed to taking that Golden State Warriors assistant coaching gig.
Hornacek finds himself in the toughest spot of all because he wants to placate Phil while also building trust with his locker room. But by doing the former, the latter becomes nearly impossible.
It’s bad enough that Hornacek will scream at Kristaps Porzingis during games but rarely if ever admonish Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose. The players notice that. But once Hornacek allows Jackson to schedule and run a practice he’s on the fast track to losing the players for good.
This is why Jackson had zero interest in listening to Carmelo’s suggestion last spring that he interview Tom Thibodeau for the job. Jackson was never going to allow any coach to have the same freedom he enjoyed as a coach. The freedom every coach deserves.
For weeks, I wrote that Jackson should have removed the interim tag from Kurt Rambis’ job title and made him the permanent head coach. Rambis is a Jackson disciple who is committing to running the triangle. It was the perfect match.
Why Rambis didn’t get the job remains a mystery. Was James Dolan opposed to it or perhaps Jackson felt that Anthony and Porzingis wouldn’t work with Rambis? Maybe it was a combination of both.
Jackson made sure to keep Rambis on staff while he serves as the de facto head coach from the 10th row. Hornacek is just the front man in this arrangement.
Just know that this does not happen in other organizations. Pat Riley is the president of the Heat, not the head coach. He allows Erik Spoelstra to coach the team while Riley builds the roster and creates the winning culture.
How’s that working out for the Miami Heat, anyway?
What Phil did the other day is counterproductive. For one, the Knicks ran a practice without notifying the media about it. That’s against league rules. It’s laughable how Phil told one giant fib during his introductory press conference three years ago about transparency and an open relationship with the press. He’s been the complete opposite.
But this is the Knicks culture. They just can’t help themselves. The day after Thursday’s mini triangle camp, the Knicks had one player available to talk about it; Sasha Vujacic.
What a coincidence. Sasha is a nice guy and he works hard but do you think he was made available to praise Phil and the triangle because it is Phil and the triangle that have kept Sasha employed in the NBA the last two years?
Two weeks ago, Hall of Fame head coach Larry Brown said it perfectly; If Phil wants to run the triangle so badly and since he knows it better than everyone he should simply coach the team. It’s true. Enough with this charade already. Either coach the team or back off. This needs to happen today.
For health and roster reasons, it’s highly doubtful that Phil will coach again. The only option is for him to stop undermining Hornacek and stay in his lane.
Think of it as simple math Phil; addition by subtraction.
Published at Sat, 11 Mar 2017 20:24:14 +0000